Three suspects were remanded in custody for four days by Limassol district court on Monday as police investigate a suspected scam to defraud social security funds earmarked for the homeless.
Defence lawyers objected to the remand and the court decided to approve four rather than the eight days requested by police.
Police say that the three had set up a scheme at a hotel to claim funds to house homeless individuals for longer than they had actually stayed. They said that they believe as much as €35,000 may have been siphoned off in this way.
The three suspects are the 46 year old president of an association which campaigns for the homeless, the 57 year old owner of the hotel and a 66 year old receptionist at the hotel.
They are under investigation for conspiracy to commit an offence, obtaining funds under false pretenses and fraud. The alleged offences were committed between August 2018 and October 2019. All deny any involvement.
Police told the court that there were at least nine cases of homeless individuals who had left the hotel but the state continued to pay for their room and board.
In one instance the welfare services were looking for a specific individual for three months who was shown to be staying at the hotel but when informed by the welfare services said he had not stayed for that long.
The case was reported to the police on August 28 after welfare service officers who asked to see the homeless individuals in their rooms were forbidden from doing so by the hotel management, the court was told.
The court also heard that homeless individuals who had left the hotel were instructed by the suspects to sign in every day, while others were pressured to stay at that specific hotel rather than another one which was cheaper.
But defence said the police’s suspicions were neither genuine, honest or founded and said that ulterior motives were in play to harm the movement which helps the homeless.
The lawyers said there was no evidence of offences having been committed. They disputed whether €35,000 could be secured and whether the suspects could influence witnesses and asked that their clients be released.
The court finally decided on a four day rather than the eight day remand requested by police.